The proposed rule requiring all Idaho high school students to take two online credits was back in the spotlight today on the committee level in both the House and the Senate at the Idaho Legislature.
A House Education subcommittee took up the rule in the morning and heard testimony from four people, with only State Superintendent Tom Luna speaking in favor of passing it as is. Idaho Education Association President Penni Cyr, Karen Echeverria of the Idaho School Boards Association, and Boise Schools trustee Janet Orndorff all opposed the rule’s requirement for one of the two credits to be asynchronous, or delivered at a time when students and teacher aren’t necessarily online at the same time. Nevertheless, the subcommittee recommended that the rule be passed on to the full committee for approval.
This afternoon, the Senate Education Committee considered the rule for nearly two hours before adjourning so Chairman John Goedde (R-Coeur d’Alene) could attend a meeting on the red-hot health insurance exchange issue.
Once again, Cyr, Echeverria, and Orndorff spoke against the rule’s asynchronous requirement. They were joined by Dr. Linda Clark, Meridian Schools superintendent, who said her district could live with the rule if it simply mandated two credits without addressing whether they be synchronous or asynchronous. A few people testified for the rule including Brianna LeClaire of the Idaho Freedom Foundation; parent Julie Browning; and Luna.
Cyr affirmed that most Idaho educators, parents, and students favor online courses as an educational option. But speaking to the Senate panel about the IEA’s concerns over the asynchronous requirement, Cyr said, “Our main concern is that students have immediately accessible help from a certified teacher in the subject matter. When a child has a question, he or she should be able to get help in real time by a teacher who knows the subject matter.
“Nothing in this rule says that the paraprofessional or staff member has to be certified in the subject matter and able to help a child,” Cyr added. She said that the IEA’s reading of the rule brought to mind a “glorified study hall,” noting that while a teacher or paraprofessional may indeed be in the room during an asynchronous class, the staff member may not be certified in the subject the student is studying.
As a member of the state’s technology task force, Cyr said she and others on that team heard “from experts in Maine and Oregon who said that instead of reducing the need for qualified teachers in the room, technology makes teachers more important than ever.”
Cyr also spoke to a question about why so many Idahoans oppose the online credit requirement when, for years, the state has had other requirements about what a student must take in order to get a high school diploma.
“The difference is that graduation requirements have to do with content of the courses students are required to take. The new online credit rule has to do, first and foremost, with delivery, not content,” Cyr said. “Never before has Idaho mandated a delivery method for instruction, and as you know, we are one of the first states to do so. Yet this concern also extends to content, because under this rule, that, too, is slipping out of the hands of Idaho parents, educators, and school boards.
Cyr also referenced a new article by online education expert Dr. Justin Marquis, who wrote Monday, “Initiatives such as the one in Idaho have the potential to increase technological literacy and expand course offerings beyond what is possible in every school. The operative phrase here is ‘have the potential,’ though. … the state of Idaho (and the many other states across this country implementing similar changes) needs to consider the long-term effects of slashing their education budgets and looking for quick fix solutions.”
Read more from the Senate hearing on our Twitter feed. The Senate panel will resume its consideration of the online credit rule at its meeting at 3 p.m. Wednesday in Room WW55. The controversial rule that seems to put additional limits on what teachers can negotiate is still on the panel’s docket for tomorrow, too.